Monden van de Rijn: de karakterisering van zijn publieke geest door de overheidsfunctionarissen van het Franse Keizerrijk, 1810-1813
: Over de betekenisinhoud van ‘esprit public’ in de correspondentie van het napoleontische bestuursapparaat bij de integratie van het departement Monden van de Rijn

Translated title of the thesis: Bouches-du-Rhin: the characterization of its public spirit by the government officials of the French Empire, 1810-1813: About the meaning of ‘esprit public’ in the correspondence of the Napoleonic administrative machinery during the integration of the Bouches-du-Rhin department
  • C. Bos

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    In the years 1810-1811, the French Empire went through a final expansionary phase, with Napoleon tightening his economic, political and military grip on the European continent, including in the Dutch department of Bouches-du-Rhin (Monden van de Rijn), which roughly encompassed the east of today’s province of North Brabant. It was only a small part of the Empire, nevertheless an examination can shed light on the French administrative apparatus, which was an important building stone of the Napoleonic Empire. Specifically, this master thesis deals with the content that the French government and administration gave to the concept of esprit public in the integration of Europe. Gaps in current historiography justify a closer examination of the Bouches-du-Rhin department, which has received little attention for both archival and ‘nationalist’ reasons. The research questions provide insight into the (conceptual) development and perception of the esprit public, using a still little-studied Dutch department as a case study. Thus, light is shed on the functioning of the Napoleonic administration in the incorporated territories. In this way, this study contributes not only to knowledge of the Napoleonic era in the Netherlands, but also to a better understanding of Napoleon’s empire as a whole.
    Chapter 1 discusses the state of the art in research on this subject and the theoretical framework and methodology that were used for this master thesis. Chapter 2 deals with the origin of esprit public, its change in meaning, and the way this concept acquired a place within the Napoleonic administrative apparatus. The third chapter focuses on the central government's use of the term in the integration of new departments, in particular the specific integrative challenges faced by the administrators of Bouches-du-Rhin. The fourth chapter clarifies how the various administration branches contributed to the assessment of the esprit public. Chapter 5 examines how the prefect's final assessment came about and how it related to the rooting of Napoleonic rule in the department. The final chapter contains the main findings and provides an answer to the research question. This chapter concludes with the most important implications for further research.
    In short, the study shows that esprit public mainly appears in administrative reports as a not very reliable indicator of the rooting of the Napoleonic administration in this department. Sometimes the concept was used as a tool to promote integration, but even then the interpretation given to it was not free of envy or administrative aspirations. This became visible in a study that not only focused on the prefect's interpretation of esprit public, but studied the creation of the term in interrelation with the reports and instructions of his subordinates and higher ranked officials. Such an examination not only provides more insight into the functioning of the Napoleonic administration, it also contributes to the study of the actual rooting of French authority in a department. 
    Date of Award16 Jan 2023
    Original languageDutch
    SupervisorMartijn van der Burg (Supervisor) & Caroline Drieënhuizen (Examiner)

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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